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March 31, 2022

03/31/2022 03:40:58 PM


Rabbi Hearshen

11… 11... 11… That is the number of souls robbed from our earth in under one week by fanatical terrorists. 11 souls that will never be able to be present for their families and friends. 11 souls that will miss anniversaries and birthdays, now and forever. 11 souls were murdered in cold blood for no other reason than they were living in the land of Israel. 11 souls were destroyed because of hatred and an inability to live in a world of nuance and diversity. These eleven individuals will not be able to celebrate Passover, Easter or Ramadan ever again. That’s right, the terrorists did not only kill Jews. The victims were from various parts of the fabric of the Israeli nation.

On March 22 in Be’er Shevah we lost the following individuals to terror:

Rabbi Moshe Kravitzky
Laura Yitzhak
Menahem Yehezkel
Doris Yahbas 

On March 27 in Hadera we lost the following two Border Police officers who were killed defending the people of Israel by terrorists:

Yazan Falah
Shirel Aboukrat

On March 29 in B’nai Barak we lost the following people to terror. Khoury was an Arab Israeli who saved numerous lives when he engaged the terrorist and lost his life as a result. Sorokopot and Mitrik were Ukrainian nationals who were in Israel working in construction.

Amir Khoury
Yaakov Shalom
Avishai Yehezkel
Victor Sorokopot
Dimitri Mitrik

Each of these victims has a name and a story. Each one of them deserved so much better and now we’re left to pick up the broken shards that were their lives and move forward. Much has been made about this latest uptick in violence and its timing. 2022 will be a very odd year when Passover, Easter and Ramadan will all happen at the same time. We’re used to Passover and Easter going together every year, but Ramadan moves around every year and so it’s not common to overlap with Passover. In thinking about Passover, it’s impossible not to recognize the words of the Haggadah:

מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן־עֲזַרְיָה וְרַבִּי עֲקִיבָא וְרַבִּי טַרְפוֹן שֶׁהָיוּ מְסֻבִּין בִּבְנֵי־בְרַק וְהָיוּ מְסַפְּרִים בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם כָּל־אוֹתוֹ הַלַּיְלָה, עַד שֶׁבָּאוּ תַלְמִידֵיהֶם וְאָמְרוּ לָהֶם רַבּוֹתֵינוּ הִגִּיעַ זְמַן קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע שֶׁל שַׁחֲרִית.

There is a story about Rebbi Eliezer, Rebbi Yehoshua, Rebbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rebbi Tarfon who were reclining/sitting in B’nai Barak and telling of the Exodus from Egypt the entire night. (This lasted) until their students said to them: “our teachers, the time has arrived for the morning Shema”.

This paragraph seems so insignificant and many of us probably skip it each year as it’s not part of the essential Seder. The ancient town of B’nai Barak, which was mentioned in the book of Joshua and was located in the territory of the Tribe of Dan, is very near to where the modern-day city is located. What’s  incredible is these five rabbis represent a very important generation of Jewish history; they were alive during and after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE. They witnessed the violence, the blood, the destruction, the calamity… they saw the pain and the uncertainty. What could they have been talking about that they would have been up all night? Jewish survival? Jewish continuity? A new direction? Distrust of and anger/rage towards the Romans? Probably some sort of combination. But as The Passover Haggadah: An Ancient Story for Modern Times, brought to us by the wonderful editors of Tablet Magazine, points out in its commentary on this part: “If nothing else, we should learn from these men that even in the shadow of great tragedy, faith and friendship always find a way forward.”

In just over two weeks we’ll be reliving these words from the ancient Haggadah and we’ll have the choice to see the bad and ugly in our world and allow them to alter our outlooks and worldview. Or, we can choose to see that as free people, we can embrace a world where love and beauty have a chance to win. A world were friendship and understanding are a possibility. We can choose to allow this much better outlook to push us to do and be better.

These rabbis make appearances in numerous places as a group and as parts of different groups. In the Talmud (Makkot 24b):

On another occasion they were ascending to Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple. When they arrived at Mount Scopus and saw the site of the Temple, they rent their garments in mourning, in keeping with halakhic practice. When they arrived at the Temple Mount, they saw a fox that emerged from the site of the Holy of Holies. They began weeping, and Rabbi Akiva was laughing. They said to him: For what reason are you laughing? Rabbi Akiva said to them: For what reason are you weeping? They said to him: This is the place concerning which it is written: “And the non-priest who approaches shall die” (Numbers 1:51), and now foxes walk in it; and shall we not weep? …

Rabbi Akiva said to them: Now that I have seen the prophecies of the destruction of the Temple fulfilled, I know the prophecies of redemption and return will be fulfilled as well. As it says in Zekharia 8:4 “One day old men and women will once again sit in peace in the streets of Jerusalem. The Gemara adds: The Sages said to him, employing this formulation: Akiva, you have comforted us; Akiva, you have comforted us. (I thank the wonderful creators of The Koren Youth Haggada for reminding me of this wonderful and rich story from the Talmud.)

Rebbi Akiva made a choice at that moment to see that the sun will rise tomorrow. He made a choice to be a free person and be able to look towards greatness and not destruction. We must mourn the loss of life and the loss of innocence. We must grieve that people will not be celebrating Passover or other holidays with their friends and families. We must, as a Jewish community, be vigilant and aware of the hatred of which we are the targets. All of this is true, but that’s not the entire story, or the reality. In dark times, it feels as if the sun will never rise again. But it does. In dark times, it feels like we’ll never be able to overcome all that’s in front of us, but we do. Rebbi Akiva chose to celebrate his Seder in B’nai Barak, and in two weeks’ time, people will do the same again this year. At his Seder, he chose to celebrate freedom and to not only mourn all that was taken from us. We’ll do the same this year. We’ll  celebrate all we’ve been free to have because of our majestic and wonderful world.

May the memories of these 11 souls be a blessing forever.

Sun, June 26 2022 27 Sivan 5782